Will Gibraltar be following in the footsteps of New Zealand?
Patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 can die by euthanasia if doctors decide they might not survive, the New Zealand government has declared.
The Ministry of Health confirmed that a right to a lethal injection under a new euthanasia law could extend to patients who were either dying from the coronavirus or suffering unbearably from its consequences.
In response to a request for clarity on a euthanasia law which came into force last month, the government declared that “in some circumstances a person with COVID-19 may be eligible for assisted dying”.
Henoch Kloosterboer, editor of the anti-euthanasia The Defender website, made a request under the Official Information Act – the New Zealand equivalent to the 2000 Freedom of Information Act.
He said the policy left “the door wide open for abuse” of elderly and vulnerable patients – especially if the country’s health service came under pressure from a COVID surge.
He said: “It would not be hard to envisage a situation in which a speedy and sizeable rise in COVID-19 hospitalisations could result in pressure to utilise euthanasia and assisted suicide as tools to resolve such a serious crisis.”
The euthanasia law, he added, “has now made the COVID-19 pandemic potentially even more dangerous for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand”.
The 2019 End of Life Choice Act is considered to be one of the most extreme euthanasia laws anywhere in the world, and critics say the safeguards are so flimsy that they are easily circumvented.
Doctors receive a government fee of $1,000 plus expenses for every euthanasia death they perform.
In the UK, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a professor of palliative medicine, said the New Zealand euthanasia law contradicted the fundamental purpose of medicine and health services to heal the sick.
She said: “It is bizarre that a country which has been trying to protect it citizens by closing down completely from a virus from which people can fully recover … is now suggesting that these patients should be killed by their doctors.
Baroness Meacher is seeking to legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales through her Assisted Dying Bill, which in October received its Second Reading in the House of Lords.
In Scotland, Liam MacArthur, the Liberal Democrat MP is intending to introduce an assisted suicide Bill and in politicians in Jersey last month agreed in principle to legalised both assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Last month, it was revealed that Nancy Russell, a 90-year-old Canadian woman, chose to die by assisted suicide rather than endure another COVID lockdown in her care home that would isolate her from her friends and family.